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April 9, 2013

Taxpayer-Subsidized Seal Hunt Begins off Canada’s East Coast

HSI Protect Seals team is on location to document the slaughter of baby seals

Humane Society International/Canada

  • The slaughter has begun. Frank Loftus/The HSUS

ST. ANTHONY, Newfoundland — Humane Society International/Canada is on location to document cruelty at Canada’s commercial seal hunt, which opened in the "Front" (the waters northeast of Newfoundland) half an hour before sunrise on Tuesday, April 9. Fifteen sealing vessels have hailed out to participate in the slaughter in the Front, eight for the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and three boats for an unknown destination.

“This is my 15th year observing the seal slaughter and we are filming the same kind of cruelty we always do. Baby seals are being shot in the face and crying out in agony, wounded seals are being allowed to escape into the water to die slowly, and helpless wounded pups are being beaten to death,” said Rebecca Aldworth, executive director of HSI/Canada. “The Canadian government wants the world to believe everything has changed, but the seals are suffering as much as always.”

Last month, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador provided $3.6 million in financing so that sealers could be paid to kill seals despite a lack of global markets for seal products. Fisheries Minister Kieth Ashfield has not yet announced the Total Allowable Catch for seals in 2013.

Earlier this year, Taiwan passed a historic ban on the trade in marine mammal products, including Canadian seal products. The European Union, Russia, the United States and other nations have also implemented prohibitions on the trade in seal products.

With global markets for seal products closing fast, HSI/Canada calls on the Canadian and provincial governments to support a federal buyout of the commercial sealing industry, which would involve ending the seal hunt, providing immediate compensation for sealers, and investing in economic alternatives in the communities involved.

Broadcast-quality video and stills of the 2013 commercial seal slaughter will be available.


  • National polling consistently shows the overwhelming majority of Canadians want the commercial seal slaughter to end, and oppose the Canadian government's using tax dollars to promote the sealing industry.
  • 2010 Ipsos Reid polling shows that 50 percent of Newfoundland sealers holding an opinion support a federal sealing industry buyout, a plan in which sealers would be compensated for their licenses and funds invested in economic alternatives in the communities involved.
  • Harp seals are the primary target of the east coast commercial seal hunt.
  • As ice-dependent animals, seals rely on the sea ice to give birth to and nurse their pups. In recent years, sea ice cover has declined significantly off Canada’s east coast, and very high seal pup mortality has been recorded in key seal whelping areas.
  • Government landings reports confirm that more than 98 percent of seals killed in Canada’s annual slaughter are less than three months old.
  • Veterinary reports consistently reveal high levels of animal suffering in commercial sealing, and a 2013 veterinary study concluded bans on seal product trade are justified on ethical grounds.
  • A leading Canadian government scientist has publicly called for a reduction in the harp seal quota of at least 100,000 to address the impacts of climate change on ice-dependent harp seals in recent years.
  • Independent scientists warn that reckless kill levels authorized by the Canadian government, paired with the impacts of climate change on the ice dependent harp seals, poses a serious ecological threat to the survival of harp seal populations.
  • Sealers are commercial fishermen who, on average, earn less than five percent of their annual incomes from sealing; the remainder comes from seafood such as crab, shrimp and lobster.


Media Contact: Dean Pogas, HSI/Canada: 514.261.6007/514.395.2914; dpogas@hsi.org

Humane Society International/Canada is a leading force for animal protection, with active programs in companion animals, wildlife and habitat protection, marine mammal preservation, farm animal welfare and animals in research. HSI/Canada is proud to be a part of Humane Society International which, together with its partners, constitutes one of the world’s largest animal protection organizations. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty worldwide – on the Web at hsicanada.ca

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